As an antique dealer, I’ve been on hundreds of meetings with clients to buy antiques and collectibles. Each time I enter the home of a potential client to make a purchase, it is a very curious and unpredictable conversation. I’ve bought some wonderful and valuable items and I’ve also bought thousands of average and interesting, yet not so valuable items. I always enjoy looking at things, no matter what they are. It’s an adventure to view people’s personal collections, or items they have accumulated during the setting up of their own homes. Yard sales create similar excitement when I find something I take a fancy to. I have bought tools that I use, and pieces that add to my personal collections and interests. I also like to find things my wife and daughter can use and enjoy.
One of my most vivid memories in my years of antiquing was when I attended a home sale in New York, around the Albany area. There were a couple of painted bureaus or chest of drawers sitting in the driveway. The man having the sale told me he’d like to get rid of them to make room for different ones he’d bought. We came to an agreeable price and he asked me if there were any other pieces of furniture I’d be looking for. I was about to do a show in a couple of weeks, so I told him I’d be interested in natural wood tables and stands with some age to them. He intimated there was a table in his house in an unused upstairs room. Eager to take a look, I followed him up the stairway. In the room was a set of fluted legs that appeared to go to a very nice oak dining table. We looked and looked all over, but couldn’t come up with a top, and I decided not to purchase the legs separately. He remembered there was a chance the tabletop was over his attached garage in the attic. The access to this storage room was through a small door in the wall at the top of the stairs in the house. He took a flash light and squeezed himself through the door to search for it. I stood by and I heard him shout, “Found it!” He pulled into view a square top that fit the legs perfectly. It was nice with honest patina. I looked at it with the aid of his flashlight and decided I’d be interested for sure. I offered him a price and he was very enthusiastic to make the deal.
He picked up the top and tried to hand it to me through the door. It wouldn’t fit that way. He turned it, then tried to push it through again at a different angle. No fit. We tried diagonally, but no matter which way it was turned, it wouldn’t fit. I asked if there might be a trap door in the garage where he could put the top down through the ceiling. No trap door. The garage had a finished ceiling. I apologized and told him I was sorry, but I couldn’t think of a way to make it fit, and it wasn’t a tabletop that could be taken apart into sections. He told me to wait where I was because he had an idea. He wanted the money and that was that. In about five minutes he returned with a chainsaw. I took a look and started to laugh. “You aren’t thinking of cutting into the wall with that are you?” I asked nervously.
“Damn Right I am!” he said.
“No, don’t do that! It’s going to cause you more work than it’s worth!” I said. He started up the chainsaw anyway, and just then, his wife came running into the house and looked up the stairs in bewilderment.
“What are you doing!” she yelled above the drone of the chainsaw. Shouting, he repeated the price I’d offered him. She was even more persistent and motioned for him to shut off the saw, but he just revved up the motor and pushed the bar and chain against the wall until it cut through to the other side. He continued in a semi-straight line, turned upward and enlarged the opening of the original portal. He kicked out the excess and it fell back into the attic of the garage. The whole place was filled with gray blue smoke from the running chainsaw. He sat the saw on the floor and jumped into the dark attic to retrieve the table top. I was a very nervous buyer, to say the least, after that display.
“Wow!” I said as I took the top from him and smiled as we brought it outside. We chatted a while and loaded up the rest of my purchases, and settled up with the total. As I went to get in my van to leave, I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of reception his wife would give him after I was out of sight. She was definitely going to say something, and I was glad I would be out of earshot. I hoped he was able to make the repair. I brought the table to the outdoor show and had a major story to tell any of the potential buyers. I think the story helped to sell it! It has brought me many smiles over the years as I recall the day I met the guy who chain-sawed a hole in his house to retrieve a tabletop.
Memories I’ve stored away often bring me a smile just when I need one.